Expatriate American academic with high, middle, and low-brow taste.
Unlike other reviewers, I think plot is indispensable for good storytelling. Thus, I found this book frustrating. I listened, following along with the text, and consulting the websites where passionate fans chew on the intriguing set pieces that Pynchon offers. The many settings, characters, networks, and theories never cohere, and most of them never connect into any overall thematic or allegorical meaning. But there's lot of richly ambiguous symbolism, a sort of alchemical semiotic miasma using light, day, gold, silver, abstract math (fourth dimension, quaternions), and doublings (paired characters, worlds, realities). This book seems to be an attempt to tell a story set in the past that is emphatically non-historical insofar as history is defined as a grand narrative. There's no God-like narrator, no attempt to frame the individual stories within a larger sense of the historical moment. Instead, there's an unmasterable heap of details and small plots, similar to the way that life is really experienced. There's a lot of wacky humor, such as an opera entitled The Burgher King, a Middle Eastern assassin named Al Mar-Faud, dressed in English hunting tweeds and a shotgun, ("Gweetings, gentlemen, on this Glowious Twelfth!), and very little of the urgency and tragedy that I need in a novel of this length to keep me interested. I forced myself through this book because I'm interested in the ideas and in the potential of experimental postmodern narrative.
The narrator is stupendous, bringing this very difficult book to life with an astounding array of accents deployed consistently. He also pronounces the dozens of obscure and foreign phrases accurately, a remarkable feat. Most importantly, he achieves an understated tone of muted irony that perfectly matches that of Pynchon.
One of Pynchon's best with a great read from Dick Hill. Loved it. Just a brilliant work of fiction.
To address the negative reviews: if you tend to think of Nicholas Sparks or Dan Brown as great literature you may find this book a little confusing and off-putting. You'd be better off downloading the latest Sue Grafton or something of that ilk instead.
I would give the book itself 5 stars, but as an audiobook, it's a disaster. It's very hard to listen to this book because the reader overacts in the extreme. He sounds like a really bad amateur stage actor - relentlessly distracting, really ruining the book. Almost every sentence is "recited" in such a way that it sounds like he is ridiculing the book and the characters. There is no way to describe how terrible the reading is, the worst I have heard on an audible book (which are usually terrific, I must say). Where was the voice talent director during this recording??? It's painful.
I ordered Against the Day because so much fuss is made about Thomas Pynchon. I now wonder more than ever why so much is made about his rambling style. I could not become interested in any of the characters, and just when a plot thread starts to appear, it is abandoned. I do admit he has a command of the English language and that he is creative with names and factoids. However, that was not enough to keep my interest. Listening to it made me long for James Joyce - I left Against the Day, which goes on for years, and returned to Ulysses, which in my mind, accomplishes more in a Bloomsday.
The volume of the speaker needs to stay within a reasonably narrow dynamic range to allow for listening in a somewhat noisy environment.
I could not follow the narration when running on a treadmill due to background noise from the treadmill. Never had this problem with other audio books from audible. Using a wide range of volumes might work in a theatre but not so good with audiobook narration.
reading Pynchon is like navigating a labyrinth. hearing Pynchon is navigating the labyrinth on a brakeless train.
NO --- no recommendation.
Clearly the author was writing a history report on the 1800's and decided to craft it into a book to salvage the A minus on the final report.
One of the big diffs between Stories and Poems: poems, like songs, rarely have Endings.
Just Describe the conflict, speculate about how I feel, and repeat chorus.
This book introduces characters and some good dialog, then Boom next setting, next characters, then boom boom boom.
There is a grand total of ONE plot in a 52 hour audiobook.
For a new story just tack on an ending and you've got a decent story.....hey maybe I should go to my writing desk of dollars......excuse me
Mike Perschon, the Steampunk Scholar, recommended this book in multiple top 10's.
From a History-Book-Come-Alive, I guess, it saved Mike from doing the research himself.
Dick Hill has managed to give a wonderful reading of a very difficult book. I hope Mr Hill can be persuaded to read Pynchon's novel 'Mason & Dixon'. I don't know of any other reader who could do it justice.
This is an excellent book in search of an audience that may not exist. The story is well-written and interesting. The narrator, Mr. Hill, performs suitable to the content. The trouble is, it is a book styled for young adults, and will likely leave anyone expecting a sophisticated novel of the turn of the last century leading up to WWI disappointed. Mr. Hill narrates in a breathless, gee-whiz style with multiple broad character voices that fit the story. However, it is a story along the lines of Tom Swift, almost a parody of that genre. Now, I believe the stylistic parody is done intentionally to entertain adults--but it falls short. It is a little too far over the line into juvenalia. The other problem is, as a novel for young adult (primarily boys), it is too learned. The wonderful facility that Thomas Pynchon has for language would leave young readers (other than those who are particularly precocious) overwhelmed and and sadly, not due to the plot line but as a result of the highly advanced linguistic gymnastics, bored.
1st let me address the narrator whom I've run across in the past. He has vastly improved. I heard him perhaps too often long ago and didn't think some recordings were all that good but he is very good here, not Frank Muller's Moby Dick or Jim Dale's Harry Potter which are top of the line, but non the less excellent. NOW for the story. Pynchon is crazy but in a good way. Aside from a "wild west" type episode early in the novel which goes on a bit long for me, I thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end. If you are familiar with Pynchon at all then you'll pick up on his themes: entropy, colonialism, haphazard history, science fact and fiction etc. It is hard to keep all the characters straight when they pop in and out for long stretches but the episodes are sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, sometimes fascinating. Tesla, World War 1, revenge, spies, obsessive sex, slapstick, puns, word play,pulp style comic scifi heroes, obscure history...What isn't in this book? I would still suggest starting Pynchon with Crying of Lot 49, and maybe even Inherent Vice to get a feel for whats coming, but though this is a big undertaking it was well worth it for me. Hopefully they'll get V., Mason & Dixon, Vineland, and Gravity's Rainbow on audio soon as well as his short stories which i also enjoy. & don't assume the craziest stuff in Pynchon is made up, i'm always amazed when i do a little research what turns up as real.